Congestive heart failure is a serious disorder where part of your heart muscle loses its ability to pump blood properly. Several signs are leading up to a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. Yet, the most valuable confirmation that you have this problem sits with the cardiology department at your hospital. A cardiologist often confirms the diagnosis your general physician has made. Here are the signs of the disorder, the tests completed to confirm the disorder, and how the tests confirm what the signs and diagnosis have said.

Swollen Ankles, Palpitations, and Shortness of Breath 

Yes, pregnancy can cause swollen ankles, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath, too, but if you are male or a post-menopausal female, you know you are not pregnant. That said, your GP will look at your combination of symptoms, which also include high blood pressure, and kidney problems, before diagnosing you with congestive heart failure. To make absolutely sure that you have congestive heart failure, your GP will send you to the cardiologist.

The Cardiologist's Tests

The truest and quickest means to confirming congestive heart failure is an EKG/ECG, or electrocardiogram. The cardiologist hooks you up to the EKG machine and gets a reading of your heart rate and bioelectrical activity in your heart. He/she then looks for abnormal activity and abnormal rhythms.

Any abnormality can confirm that you have congestive heart failure. However, the cardiologist may also order a "stress test" to make sure you have congestive heart failure. This includes climbing aboard a stationary bike or a treadmill and moving very quickly for a period of time while connected to the EKG and another piece of cardiology equipment. If your heart cannot keep up while you exercise, you have congestive heart failure.

Determining the Stage of the Failure and the Side of the Heart That Is Failing

This part is a little trickier. Your GP works with your cardiologist to examine the test results and the symptoms that show you have congestive heart failure. They are attempting to uncover which of the four stages of heart failure you are experiencing, as well as which side of the heart has the failure (i.e., left or right).

If you have the swelling in the right ankle, foot, and lower leg, along with a few other symptoms, then the right side of your heart is failing. If the swelling is on your left side, then the left side of your heart is failing. As for which stage, the worse your symptoms and the worse your ability to breathe is, the later the stage. Thankfully, it is a treatable condition, but you will have to change diet and exercise for the rest of your life.